There was heavy and sustained rain, starting in the latter part of the first week of December. The weather then cleared and the rains were followed by days of glorious, sunny weather for a while, before the rains returned over Christmas for a few days. Some of the latter storms were extremely heavy, especially along the escarpment – sections of the road to Ngiro-are were washed away. One area, through the middle of the Triangle missed the rain completely.
We held a lodge manager’s meeting at Olonana at the beginning of the month. It was well attended and we were able to discuss a number of issues, including: security, park entrance fees, KAPS, development and the villages association.
A Parliamentary Committee on Local Authorities conducted a fact-finding visit to the Mara Triangle on the 15th. This followed meetings with the District Administration, County Council and local communities. The Committee was following up on allegations in Parliament that the management of the Mara Conservancy relocated “wildlife, particularly cheetah cubs, lion cubs and spotted hyenas to privately owned ranches within and outside the country.” Local politicians, and their supporters, used the opportunity to hit at the Conservancy and a number of wild allegations were touted. The allegations included the wildlife issue, single sourcing for revenue collection and failure to remit revenue to the Council. The Committee will write a report and submit it to Parliament.
Most of the remaining wildebeest had left by the 10th.
Dr Mijele darted and treated two elephant on the 7th. The first had a wire snare that had cut deeply into a front leg, the snare was removed and the wound cleaned up. The second had a spear wound on her hind leg – the wound was cleaned and the elephant given anti-biotic.
That evening two male lions killed one of the Mugoro cubs. Two weeks later the males caught up with two other cubs and killed them– two males and two females killed from this pride in a month. One other carcass was found on the Olpunyatta plains – whether from this pride or not, we don’t know. The Mugoro pride has been the most stable and visible pride in the Triangle – giving people enormous pleasure and entertainment, especially when they ambushed wildebeest and the cul-de-sac crossing. The pride is now fragmented and disbursed. We have been seeing one of the young cubs alone near the river and hope that it will join up with the rest of the pride. It would appear that the regular pride males: Notch and his sons have become overextended; they are spending an increasing amount of time across the river. This has enabled another group of males to come into the area and cause the disruption we have witnessed.
Ten, one to two-month old, cubs are being seen regularly near “Enkiu”, off the main Oloololo to Serena road. We are concerned that the females hunt up the escarpment – they could easily start stock-killing and be the target of retaliation.
One of Anna’s pups died – probably sat on by her mother. Anna herself was sick for a period and was treated for Babesia. She seems to have recovered.
We sent most of the road team off for Christmas and they will return at the beginning of January.
We held a party to celebrate 1,500 poachers arrested and used the occasion to open the new mess and kitchen at Oloololo.
We will reshuffle staff in our routine transfers, on the 15th January. This is an annual exercise.
Kenya was affected by the extreme weather experienced in Europe and the United States in December – many flights were cancelled and people were unable to travel. However, the camps and lodges in the Mara were still able to record high occupancy rates – partly as a result of travellers from Asia, but also because we have had a boom in local tourism. Kenyans are travelling as never before and it is very heartening to see them visit our Parks and Reserves.
The Minister of Tourism wrote a letter to the Kenya Wildlife Service and all National Reserves on the 21st December, essentially saying that Tanzanian registered tour vehicles should be banned from entering Parks and Reserves, unless the operators have a valid Tourist license. The Tanzanians have refused entry for Kenyan registered tour vehicles for some time and this seems to be in retaliation. We have circulated the letter to all our camps and gates.
Two of the armed bandits that we had arrested for the attack on River Camp in July were released from remand. This occurred at about the same time as two failed attempts to arrest other members of the same gang – a very frustrating time for us. Our informers were compromised and threatened, so we had to move them into a secure place until we can resolve things. The Chief Executive met with some very senior Police Officers to try and work out a way forward and we hope to report some positive news in January.
The Tanzanians reported the killing of four elephant and one rhino in the northern Serengeti – they mounted a very big operation against the poachers and arrested two people with guns, another eleven escaped. There has been a general increase in elephant and rhino poaching and some of the most secure rhino sanctuaries have reported incidents in the recent past – an indication that we can expect increased pressure against our rhino in the Mara. Four elephant were reported poached in the Lemek Hills – the total must be around 50 in the past three years – most of them speared by the local people. The Lemek Hills are on the very edge of the area universally known as the Masai Mara – well away from the Reserve – and on the hard edge between agriculture and conservation.
Only one poacher was arrested in December, bringing the total to 1,522.
Our combined patrols recovered 44 snares near Miungu, in the Lemai Wedge, on the 1st; five wildebeest were found dead in the snares and two were rescued. The following day four more snares were recovered.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one, of four, people on the evening of the 8th. The poachers were along the escarpment, in the Lemai Wedge, when the met up with our rangers. The following day our rangers recovered 26 wire snares near Limana Ndogo, again in the Serengeti.
The Ngiro-are rangers collected 18 wire snares near Konyoike on the 15th. The rangers set up an ambush that night but no one came in. The following day the rangers recovered 26 snares.
One poacher was seen on the 17th by the Iseiya rangers, he had come across the river to butcher a zebra. He managed to escape by swimming back across the river. Two wire snares were recovered. The following day the rangers found another six snares.
The Ngiro-are rangers recovered nine wire snares on the 25th and the following day found a hippo that had been killed and butchered by poachers opposite the Bologonja/Mara River junction in the Lemai Wedge.
The rangers saw a butchered zebra on the South side of the Mara River, down stream from the Kokatende ranger post on the 31st. There was no sign of the poachers.
Summary of arrests made and snares collected since June 2001
As can be seen from the above table, the number of arrests are slightly above the average for the past nine and a half years, but well down on the three previous years. The number of snares collected is again slightly above the average but significantly less than last year. There is no doubt that our efforts are beginning to bear fruit in the Lemai Wedge – the focus for most of our anti-poaching efforts – poachers are keeping away, not camping out any longer, and concentrating across the Mara River, in other areas of the northern Serengeti.
Revenue and Accounts
A summary of the first six months accounts show an 11% increase in revenue over budget, made up of: donations for road works from Mpata (using the sand-bag methodology) and the camps and lodges for a drift near Oloololo Gate; an increase in gate sales; a significant increase in balloon revenue; and increased park entrance fees (see table below).
Overall expenditure was almost exactly on budget – although we did have some unbudgeted expenses relating to tracking down the robbers who shot up River Camp in July, a down payment an a survey of the Reserve boundary and, most significantly, an substantial increase in salaries. We are yet to pay six months arrears on the salary increase and this will wipe out the cash surplus that we have strived so hard to achieve.
Although the camps and lodges have reported excellent occupancy for the latter half of December, many of the clients are citizens and residents. This basically means that revenue will not be as high as one would expect.
The Kenya Wildlife Service will institute their new fee structure from January 1st – we can expect the Councils to follow suit for the Mara and non-residents will probably have to pay US$ 75 per day within a few months.
One of the new culverts on the roads to Ngiro-are was nearly washed away in a very heavy rainstorm on the 24th.
All the staff houses at Oloololo gate were repainted.
The grader touched up the Oloololo to Mara Serena road and other sections of roads that had been damaged by rain.
The road team completed resurfacing a long section of the road to Ngiro-are.
Report on focus for December
Focus for January 2011
· Staff transfers;
· Continue repair work on road to Ngiro-are;
· Install culvert;
· Start work on toilet at Hippo Pools; and
· Work on drift by Oloololo Gate.